Neuropolis/World’s End Lane/We Are All In The Gutter

September 27, 2010

There’s a great sense of bedlam evoked in Garry Duggan and Gavin Louge’s Neuropolis not least because we the audience stand and stare down upon the action, some of us from a great height. As Henry awakes in a back alley in Phibsboro, the apparent victim of a vicious assault, he has no idea who or where he is. As he backtracks over his steps he crosses paths with an array of characters from his past that may or may not be out to get him. As the ghosts of memory float on by he desperately tries to keep track of it all, scribbling furiously in his notebook, piecing back the fragments of an existence long since shattered, unable to keep stock of what has happened to him.

The cast speak with clarity and move competently around this magnificent theatre, tipping their trilby hats to the work of David Lynch and the Coen Brothers in the imagery they create. The use of light, space and apparel point to what a fiercely visual piece this could be with a little work.

There needs to be a little more context to the use of costume, an edgier soundscape and a further use of the venue (had they used the upper level for some of the action we would have felt sandwiched into the madness). I felt a little too at ease for a man watching a man loosing his mind. It might be an idea to spend more time trying to arouse the horror of amnesia and less time trying to take us from A – B.

We have had plenty of stories about the madness of men’s minds but theatres great strength, as proven in Jerk, is that it can immerse us in it.

If there was a must see show at this years Absolut Fringe it was Anu’s astounding World’s End Lane. Unfortunately you can’t see it. The entire run is completely sold out. But take comfort in the fact that this is the first of four productions from director Louise Lowe exploring the area around The Lab at Foley’s Street, where this first production takes place.

It looks at the history of that one street which has undergone several incarnations over the last one hundred years, starting with its reign as Europe’s most notorious red light districts. The past dissolves into the present as in modern day dress Lowe’s perfectly cast characters takes us through the madams, fancy men, whores, palm reading gypsies and religious fanatics that brought the area to its knees in the late 19th century.

Viewed by only three people at a time, who are separated as they enter the building, each segment is for your eyes only as the cast seep you in a dreaded silence, confide in you in hushed, pleading tones or invade your personal space with their physicality. As certain parts are set out in the community there is plenty of opportunity for the present day residents of Foley Street to interact with the show. On Tuesday nights a group of local girls hijacked one scene and reenacted it perfectly to a bemused audience member.

I have never felt so impotent, so ashamed, so taken advantage of yet at the same time so invigorated, so involved or so attuned to a piece of theatre. What Lowe’s production does, so brilliantly, is flip the idea that we the audience are separate to the action, watching as the world is recreated before us. It takes us into the world, gets it in our face and forces us to confront it and ourselves.

It is theatrical perfection, one you’ll need a stiff drink and a good hug to get over. The transcendent cast includes Robbie O Connor, Zara Starr, Una Kavanagh, Deirdre Burke, Niamh Shaw, Mark Walsh and via video Connor Madden.

The party is well and trully over in Edwina Casey’s We Are All In The Gutter and as the comedown hits it’s the next generation who need to suffer the skag of the last generation’s excess. This is the concept behind Case Studies flawed but incisive production. The biggest problem it needs to overcome is that, at present, the tellers of this tale have been shielded from the worst affects of the Celtic Tigers rapid declension and who knows what the future may hold.

Here the presentation of a Utopian Dublin and the imagined childlike demise of its protagonists do a disservice to Casey’s attempts elsewhere to shed light on how we perceived it all went wrong. There’s the effective opening where the cast dart about the stage, inflating and deflating balloons and swiping chairs out from under one other before bursting and bashing them to aurally stimulate the world that is crashing down around us. There are some nice soliloquies where they dwell on the case histories of their friend’s families (and how money made their world go round) and a silly but effective summation of the financial mumbo jumbo that is rammed down out throats daily (how it can be summed up in a collective chant of NAMA, NAMA, NAMA). A fabulous sound track sets the tone for a party gone a wry and a charade like evocation of the death of childhood possibility signals our fading hope as adult responsibility descends.

But there is also a dance to ABBA’s Money Money Money the point of which was lost on me (if we were supposed to listen to the lyrics the choreography distracts) and no continuation from one segment to the next so the dots never really come together drawing out its conclusion.

This is a work in progress, one that I would like to chart the progress of. What Casey is attempting to do is to give an honest voice to those who will inherit the Earth but little else. One way to achieve this would be to take a leaf out of Una McKevitt’s book and forgo actors altogether, find the victims of our fiscally fucked up predecessors and give them their voice. That’s not a slight against the actors, I liked them, each and every one, but there is a lack of gravitas that stems from not being able to escape the fact that this is all second hand information channeled through performance.


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